Gujarat Lions v Delhi Daredevils, IPL 2017, Kanpur
Before Wednesday, Gujarat Lions had only won one match while batting first in the IPL, in 12 attempts. The last time they had played Delhi Daredevils, they had failed to defend 208. Now, sent in to bat, they made 195, and ended up on the losing side yet again, their bowling falling apart at critical moments.
Daredevils’ match-winner, yet again, came from their group of young, sometimes inconsistent, but undoubtedly gifted Indian batsmen. At the Feroz Shah Kotla, Daredevils had romped home with 15 balls to spare, after Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson added 143 in 63 balls.
Here, at Green Park, they had to pull off a different sort of big chase, where they kept losing wickets right through. Shreyas Iyer’s 96 was a different sort of innings to Pant’s 97. Daredevils were 121 for 6 at one point, with only the lower order left to give Iyer company.
Then, out of the blue, came some of this season’s most exhilarating batting, as Iyer and Pat Cummins plundered 52 from three overs. Suddenly, Daredevils only needed 23 off 18 balls.
There would, of course, be some late tension. Cummins holed out when he may not have needed to hit in the air. Iyer fell in the last over, leaving Nos. 9 and 10 seven to get off four balls. Amit Mishra, though, kept his head, pulling off two ice-cool fours off successive balls to haul Delhi over the line with two balls to spare.
Finch, Karthik lift Lions out of early trouble
Green Park provided a flat batting pitch for its first game of the IPL season, and Lions, despite losing their top three inside the first seven overs, kept scoring at a healthy rate. A lot of this was down to the bowling; in this game, Daredevils’ bowlers seemed to have caught the contagion of bowling too straight – and often too short – and leaked runs behind square on the leg side.
In all, they would concede 52 runs, and 10 boundaries (out of 26 overall), in that region. Mohammed Shami provided an early instance of this, bowling one ball full and leg-stumpish and another short and leg-stumpish to Ishan Kishan in the fourth over – with fine leg and square leg both inside the circle – giving away six and four.
Still, Lions had to fight from 56 for 3, and they did so via a 92-run stand, in 58 balls, between Aaron Finch and Dinesh Karthik. Both batsmen played some eye-catching shots, the highlights including a straight six by Karthik off Shami and some ruthless pulls from Finch, who finished with 69 off 39.
Run-outs imperil Daredevils chase
Sanju Samson hit two sumptuous fours through the covers before dragging a pull onto his stumps in the second over of the chase. Then Rishabh Pant, having sauntered absentmindedly out of his crease after surviving an lbw appeal from Pradeep Sangwan, was caught out by a direct hit from Suresh Raina at slip.
That left Daredevils 15 for 2. Iyer then put on the first of his two substantial stands, 57 off 34 balls, with Karun Nair. Right from the start, Iyer’s placement stood out – he kept finding gaps in the infield, particularly through the off side, and particularly through or behind point. Then Nair, having just hit three successive fours off Dwayne Smith’s slow-medium long-hops and reverse-lapped Ravindra Jadeja for another four, miscued a James Faulkner slower ball.
Then came two run-outs, both from direct hits powered by Jadeja’s priceless left arm. First, Marlon Samuels was slow responding to Iyer’s call for a single after a push towards point. Mistake. Then Corey Anderson wandered out of his crease after bunting Basil Thampi towards backward point. Another mistake. When Carlos Brathwaite fell to a short ball from Dhawal Kulkarni in the 14th over, Daredevils were sinking. They needed 75 from 37 balls at that point, with only four wickets in hand.
Iyer, Cummins blast off
Daredevils didn’t have time for a slow-burning comeback. They duly hit four fours in the next over, two each by Iyer and Cummins, all of them hit along the ground, into off-side gaps. Then Iyer drove and flicked three successive fours off Kulkarni. The biggest over, though, was still to come. It would come – as it has more often than he’d like to admit – against Faulkner. Cummins, expecting and getting the slower, length ball first up, clouted him over long-on. Then Iyer lifted Faulkner over long-off before drilling a drive between the bowler and mid-off.To recap Daredevils smashed 17, 14 and 21 runs off the 15th, 16th and 17th overs.
Mishra the finisher
When Cummins picked out long-on in the 19th over, Daredevils needed 14 off 10 balls. When Iyer played all around a Basil Thampi yorker in the final over, they needed 7 off 4. In walked Mishra, a vastly improved long-format batsman, but not one counted among T20’s most dangerous lower-order hitters.
Mishra knows the game inside-out, though, and probably guessed that Thampi would bowl a yorker first up. Down the track he went, surprising the bowler into a full-toss, which he flicked nonchalantly past midwicket. Then, with three to get off three balls, he walked across his stumps, with the knowledge that fine leg was stationed rather square. Thampi’s slower ball may have surprised some batsmen, but not Mishra. He waited, kept his shape, waited some more, and unfurled a deft little scoop. The fielder chased hard, dived, got his body behind the ball, but couldn’t help deflecting it into the rope. (ESPNCricinfo)
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo